Monthly Archives: April 2014

UK = Waste and Incompetence

More and more evidence is piling up on just how wasteful and economically incompetent the UK continues to be. Despite the almost frantic efforts of the No campaign to portray the UK as some safe haven, the facts continually contradict this rosy picture. I have posted before about one aspect of this incompetence, here, – the financial crisis that seem to strike the UK on an unerringly regular basis. But the incompetence and waste of our Westminster governments fare transcends the dismal science.

Wars of Occupation

The penchant of UK governments for wars of aggression are triply wasteful and very costly.  There is obviously the completely unnecessary loss of lives, whether British, allied, Iraqi or Afghani. Then there is the cost to us as taxpayers.  All these billions that went to secure a bit of worldly prestige for Tony Blair & Co, turned out to be a monumental waste of scarce resources. Resources that could have been put to better and more productive use. Finally these wars of invasion and occupation in muslim countries have done nothing to quash or even contain the rise of violent groups. Instead the continuing occupation of these countries has served as the best recruiting officer these groups have ever dreamed off. The UK remains a target for extremist groups because our governments have decided to invade and occupy other countries. Waste and incompetence on the grandest of scales! Wings Over Scotland has a typically robust look at some of the figures produced for what military operations since the end of the cold war has cost the UK in wasted money. £65 billion is the figures that emerges from a study by the Royal United Services Institute. You can read Wing’s post here.

Military Procurement

It is not as if the UK has a track record of wise investment and management of military hardware, nor military software. The Ministry of Defence continues to operate as though the words budget and value for money did not exist in the English language. The waste of money spent on Trident and its replacement is of course pretty well known. Billions spent on weapons that have never been used and almost certainly will never be used. They have never even worked as a deterrent, which is supposed to be their main purpose. Didn’t deter General Galtieri in the 1980s, nor Saddam Hussein later on. But Trident is merely the best known of a series of wasteful scandals emanating from the Ministry of Defence.

The latest in a long line is probably the scandal surrounding the two new aircraft carriers being built for the Royal Navy. At current estimates these two monsters are going to cost us over £7 billion! Despite this vast outlay they will not be fully usable until 2022 at the earliest. Which leaves the UK without even one fully functioning aircraft carrier for a decade or more. Just as well we do not face any imminent threats. Which of course in turn raises the question of why the UK needs any carriers at all.

HS2

Lest we delude ourselves that it is only the military that can waste our money, let us consider the latest folly to come out of Westminster – HS2. This is the project to build a high speed rail link between London and the North. Though of course the North as far as HS2 is concerned means the north of England. Even then, HS2 may never manage to get that far, as it is only planned to go to Birmingham and then Manchester initially. Scotland, needless to say features nowhere in the HS2 prospectus. Many analysts strongly doubt that HS2 will bring any benefits to the North, however defined. Any economic benefits are likely to go, yet again to London. And what will HS2 cost us all? A massive £80 billion! All of it from our taxes. Rarely has so much been taken from so many for the benefit of so few.

Why does this matter?

All this waste matters to us in Scotland, because we help to pay for all these unnecessary projects. Whether we like it or not. With independence we will no longer have to unwillingly subsidise Westminster’s wasteful follies. These and other savings will become our independence dividend. Money that we, who live in Scotland, will in future get to spend on our priorities.

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Vote Yes to join the world

The basic and most important reason for voting Yes is that only independence will enable us to extend and complete our democracy. The proposition is simple. Collectively, we, the people who live in Scotland will be ones who will do the best job, over time, of making Scotland a stronger, fairer and more successful country. Full democracy means that we will have to take responsibility for our relations with the rest of the world. This for me is one of the more exciting prospects that will come with independence. For it is only with independence that Scotland will be able to fully participate in and contribute to all the international bodies that are relevant to us and our future.

To some extent this already happens. Usually missed by our Britnat friends, Scotland is already an independent country in most sports, with our own, direct representation on the key world and European federations. No-one, not even those in the No campaign questions this. Political independence will mean we can build on this experience and secure our own, direct representation in all the other international organizations that interest us.

Some will be obvious and pretty uncontroversial, such as joining the United Nations, World Health Organization, World Trade Organizaton, the European Union etc. Others will be a bit more controversial, such as joining NATO. However away from the big world and continental bodies, an independent Scotland will be able to join some of smaller, regional organizations. Two immediately spring to mind – the British and Irish Council and the Nordic Council. With Scottish independence, the British and Irish Council will have the opportunity to become a more important and meaningful body, representing as it will three sovereign states, alongside the devolved administrations of Wales and Northern Ireland. Perhaps the time will come for England to be represented in this council.

The Nordic Council is still a bit of an unknown entity in Scotland. Despite the best efforts of Lesley Riddoch and Nordic Horizons. Yet Scotland has a lot to gain from closer co-operation with our Nordic neighbours. I wrote a post about this way back in 2009, which you can access here. As I wrote then Scotland should apply for observer status with the Nordic Council irrespective of the result of the referendum. Independence of course will mean we can opt for full membership. The key point is that with both councils, Scotland has much to contribute and equally, much to learn from the experience of our neighbours. The great advantage of independence and the chance to join other groups is that this sharing and learning will no longer be filtered by the lens of Westminster and London.

Freeing ourselves from this Westminster/London centric view of the world will be one of the major benefits of independence. And not only at official, governmental level. Independence is likely to have a major impact on the media in Scotland, both print and broadcast.  Whatever becomes of the BBC post independence, the big, big advantage for all of us it that it will not be British and will no longer be run from London. We badly need a broadcasting service which is open to developments around the world and does not automatically treat what happens in England as of prime significance. As many commentators have pointed out Scotland is much closer to the European norm in education for example than is England. Our broadcasters should reflect this and keep us more informed about how education and other public services are delivered and financed in the rest of Europe as opposed to using England as the preferred benchmark. While our Nordic neighbours would seem obvious territory for greater coverage, I am sure we can learn from developments in countries as far away as Australia, New Zealand, Venezuela etc. Once free from looking at everything through the filters of London, everything becomes possible.

Changes in broadcasting are likely to happen almost immediately after a Yes vote. However the print media world may take longer to change. Though change it must. Detailed coverage of Westminster politics will soon cease to have much significance in an independent Scotland. This should open up new possibilities for Scottish based and hopefully, Scottish owned newspapers.  Other relatively small independent countries, such as Denmark, Ireland, Switzerland etc all manage to sustain quality newspapers which combine in-depth coverage of national developments with good coverage of international affairs. Who knows, some of our budding journalists might welcome the chance to cover changes in Germany, Scandinavia, France, Canada etc, instead of just toddling down the road to London. We desperately need a media which informs us of developments from around the world which are relevant to the key issues in Scotland. A responsive and responsible Scottish media may be one of the most welcome if unexpected benefits of a Yes vote.

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The No campaign can only get nastier

It has been quite instructive reading and listening to the recent outpourings from the No campaign. There has been near unanimity among their own supporters that the No campaign is too negative and as a result is not working. They need to be more positive about the UK and all that. Yet, despite this, all we get is even more outlandish scare stories. Doom and gloom apparently is all that awaits us if we have the temerity to vote Yes. It seems that the No campaign is unable to change. I suspect this is because deep down even Unionists and Britnats know that there is no positive case for Scotland to remain in the UK.

It seems to me that there are only two reasons why someone would not want Scotland to become an independent country. The first is if that person feels his or herself British and not Scottish. Or at least primarily British. Their loyalty is to Britain and only secondarily to Scotland. The other reason is if someone is convinced that Scotland will be worse off if independent. Worse off economically, socially, security wise etc. This is the too wee, too poor syndrome. I cannot think of any other reason why someone, particularly someone living in Scotland and with the right to vote in the referendum, would choose to vote no.

The claim that an independent Scotland would be too poor and too wee to become a thriving country is so blatant a lie that it only survives due to its constant repetition by a largely uncritical media. There is thankfully plenty of evidence from reputable sources both in Scotland, the UK and elsewhere that demonstrate beyond doubt that Scotland is a resource rich country. The scare stories that constantly assail us – mortgages will go up, food will cost more, taxes will go up etc, are all based on this strange Unionist notion of Scottish exceptionalism – that Scotland and only Scotland, among all the small independent countries in Europe, will suffer untold doom as a result of independence. Unfortunately for the No campaign more and more Scots are seeing through this nonsense. Many have actual experience of visiting some of these other small independent countries, others know people who have visited these countries and of course many of our fellow citizens have come to live here from these small independent countries. The unanswered question for the No campaign is, if every other small country has made the successful transition to independence, why cannot Scotland?  They have no answer which is why they just ignore it and carry on with the lies and scaremongering.

The other basis of the No campaign – an appeal to Britishness, is no more convincing. It undoubtedly appeals to many, probably most, of those who feel themselves to be primarily British. However that is very much a minority of the population in Scotland. The overwhelming majority of Scots regard themselves as either wholly or mainly Scots and not British. This appeal to Britishness is also a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand if the appeal is to our shared history and values across the islands, this must include the people who now live in the Republic of Ireland. For most of that country’s modern history it has been part of the English crown and then latterly an integral part of the UK. So it is very hard to think of any values that are shared by the English, the Scots, the Welsh and the Northern Irish, that are not also shared by the citizens of the Republic of Ireland. The mere existence of the Republic of Ireland is of course something that Unionists like to just ignore. Especially the fact that no-one in Ireland thinks they would be better off by rejoining the UK. So to the extent that there are shared values, then they do not depend on a political union, as is proved by the Republic of Ireland.

If on the other hand, the appeal is to solidarity with people living in the rest of the UK, this too is rather problematical. Labour is particularly keen to use this appeal. Working class Scots have more in common with working people in Liverpool, Bradford, Cardiff and Belfast than with rich, landowning Scots. Which to a large extent is true, but so what?  Why does solidarity with working people have to stop at England, Wales and Northern Ireland? Does the working class of Dublin not also merit our solidarity? Or the working classes in Denmark, Spain, Greece. To exalt solidarity with working people in the rest of the UK to the exclusion of working people elsewhere is to come very close to appealing to British nationalism. Now let me make it clear there is nothing inherently wrong with this. An inclusive, civic British nationalism is neither better nor worse than an inclusive, civic Scottish nationalism. However nearly everyone in the No campaign is at pains to point out that nationalism is bad and Scottish nationalism is really, really bad. But they cannot have it both ways. Well they can try, but the more they appeal to a sense of Britishness the clearer it becomes that deep down they are at heart British nationalists. This of course brings us nicely to the heart of the referendum. Which is about democracy and who decides.  Should the future of Scotland be decided by the people who live in Scotland or by people who live elsewhere in the rest of the UK.

So in essence then the No campaign is based on a lie and an emotional appeal to a dying sense of Britishness which verges on British nationalism. There is nothing else. So we should not be surprised that the No campaign will simply up the ante and get even nastier as we get closer to referendum day. They have no alternative. Be prepared for lots of lovebombs without the love!

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I am not a Nationalist

This post is my response to a recent post in Bella Caledonia by David Morgan, entitled I am a Nationalist, which you can read here. David Morgan is none too keen on those who say, I am not a nationalist, but …… This of course is exactly my position. I am not a nationalist, though I have always been in favour of an independent Scotland. Morgan’s article is very interesting and well worth reading. I agree with much of what he writes. My prime objection is that he conflates two very different meanings of nation – nation as a country and nation as a people who claim a common descent.  This is clear when he writes, Put simply nationalism is the extremely dangerous idea that countries should be governed according to the democratically expressed wishes of their citizens and not in the interests of a miniscule power elite. Here we have what is for David Morgan the basic, but erroneous, equation, namely that nation = country. This is just not true. For example in Canada, the indigenous people of the Americas are known by the term First Nations. Yet of course the First Nations peoples have no country of their own. Most do not even have a province of their own. A nation can exist without the need for it to have its own state or country.

We have two recent reminders of this. The annual Tartan Day celebrations in New York came around earlier this month. This was about celebrating Scots and perhaps Scottishness and was open to all who regarded themselves as in some way Scottish. It is not primarily about Scotland the country. It could though be regarded as a national event inasmuch as it is to celebrate all who belong to the Scottish Nation. Nation here in its original sense of those who share or claim to share a common descent. In March many parts of the world were celebrating St Patrick’s Day as a celebration of all things Irish. Again this could be regarded as a celebration of the Irish Nation. What it could not be reduced to was a celebration of the Republic of Ireland.  For the very good reason that many people who consider themselves to be Irish do not live in the Republic and have no desire to do so.

I also dispute the second claim expressed in the sentence quoted above from David Morgan’s article. The bit where he  asserts that nationalism means that countries should be governed according to the democratically expressed wishes of their citizens and not in the interests of a miniscule power elite. Again I would contend that this simplistic equation is not borne out by history. Even in the case of Scottish history. The Wars of Independence for example were fought and led by the country’s or should that be the nation’s miniscule power elite. While many outwith this elite also fought for the nation’s independence, the nation remained under the iron rule of this miniscule power elite.

There are more recent examples of where nationalism had little if anything to do with the democratically expressed wishes of citizens as opposed to a miniscule power elite. On the anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War we should not need reminding of the crucial role that Serbian nationalism played in detonating that war. The Serbian elite in the pre First World War Kingdom of Serbia expressed and promoted, at times violently, a rather extreme notion of nationalism. This Serbian elite wanted the Kingdom of Serbia to expand to include all Serbs within its new expanded boundaries. Which was not necessarily an ignoble aim. What was a lot less noble was that this elite were none too concerned about how this Greater Serbia emerged. They were also somewhat inconsistent in their claims for a Greater Serbia. They not only wanted all areas where Serbs were in a majority to be included, they also wanted all areas where only a minority of the population were Serbs  to be included. Furthermore they wanted areas where Serbs had lived in the past, but no longer did so, to be included in this Greater Serbia. Not exactly an example of nationalism as a promoter of democracy.

It is this not so positive side of nationalism that David Morgan just simply ignores in his article. Now Scottish nationalism has nothing in common with Serbian nationalism of a hundred years ago. My point is that you cannot simply deny the existence of this side of nationalism. I have no problem with people like David Morgan who are happy to call themselves nationalists, as he makes it clear what kind of nationalism he supports. What I object to is the lazy claim that all people who support Scottish independence must be nationalists. The basis for my support for independence is democracy, not nationalism.  I have written about this way back in 2012 in a post entitled Is Scotland a Nation?- see here.  My conclusion to that post still stands and I am happy to quote it now – Scotland the country, Scotland the land has existed for centuries with its own distinctive customs and laws. It is on the basis of its continuing existence as a distinct entity – a state – that I support Scottish Independence. Let it be us – the people of Scotland, wherever we come from – who decide our future. Some of my more recent thoughts can be found here and here.

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Only Scotland can save the West!

George Roberston, or Lord Roberston as he now is, has made some rather startling claims for Scotland. In his latest speech in the USA he asserted that Scottish independence would be cataclysmic for the west. Not just for Scotland mind you, but for all of the west. I guess the Americans and Canadians must be terrified wrecks by now. Whoever knew that poor, wee Scotland has such enormous power throughout the world! Should we all be immensely proud of our new found status, or should the men in white suits be called for the noble Lord?

It is hard to take Lord Robertson’s rather intemperate and wild assertions in anything other than jest. Though Thomas Docherty, the Labour MP for Dunfermline and West Fife was called upon to do his duty and try and make some sense out of the noble Lord’s utterances. Thomas Docherty was on Radio Scotland this lunchtime. Challenged by John Beattie to come up with some concrete examples of what this cataclysm meant, the best poor Thomas Docherty could come up with was 1. Failure of the west’s mission in Afghanistan; 2. Russian planes intruding into Scottish airspace; and 3. Possible problem in joining NATO. Now, even with the best will in the world it is very hard to see how any of the above could ever merit the word cataclysmic.

It is worth noting that the second example only seems to affect Scotland. Even then Mr Docherty was merely claiming that with independence there might be a gap of a few years in which Scotland did not have enough airplanes of its own to track and challenge Russian intruders. While this is probably correct, it is really hard to make this into a cataclysmic event for the west. Russian planes have been flying around Scottish and UK airspace for ages, without anything drastic happening. I doubt if the Russians are planning to invade and occupy part of Scotland, and as Mr Docherty made no such suggestion I am at a loss as to what significance this claim amounts to.

The claim about Afghanistan is if anything even more ridiculous. Mr Docherty laxed lyrical about the recent Presidential election in Afghanistan and claimed this was all due to the willingness of NATO troops to remain in that country long enough to ensure the transition to democracy. Let us leave aside that the claim that Afghanistan is now a stable and peaceful democracy is perhaps a bit overblown. The essence of Mr Docherty’s assertion was that the SNP MPs at Westminster had voted in 2012, to bring the troops home immediately, and that this would have put the whole Afghanistan mission at risk.  Now it is just possible that if the UK had ended its commitment in 2012 that might have put the mission at risk. However it is an enormous stretch to claim that if the relatively few numbers of Scottish troops had been recalled in 2012 that would have been sufficient on its own to have risked the whole mission. I realize Scottish soldiers are very brave, disciplined, tenacious and highly regarded, but come on, to claim that the recall of a small number of Scottish troops would have had this cataclysmic effect on the rest of the NATO troops is just a tad over the top, is it not? After all troops from other countries have also been pulled out from Afghanistan.  Spanish troops left in September 2013. France withdrew its combat troops in November 2012, while the Canadians ended their combat role in 2011. The last of the Canadian training contingent returned last month.  Nothing cataclysmic happened as a result of these troop reductions. I don’t recall either Lord Robertson or Mr Docherty rushing to the airwaves to blast Canada, France or Spain for their dastardly dereliction of duty to the west. Only the prospect of an independent Scotland it seems warrants such condescension.

Mr Docherty’s final attempt was to suggest that Scotland might find it difficult to enter NATO. No real reason was put forward as to why this might happen. It was also a rather inopportune time to be making such unfounded claims.  NATO has just announced that its new Secretary General, a post once held by our august Lord, is to be former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. He will replace the current Secretary General, former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. So two small northern European countries can provide the current and next leader of NATO. Note also that neither Norway nor Denmark possess or host nuclear weapons. Yet somehow Scotland might be rejected by this alliance? On the one hand Scottish independence will be cataclysmic for the west and yet at the same time NATO is going to reject us!  Doesn’t make sense to me either. But it is a long time since the No campaign came out with anything that had even a passing ressemblence to sense.

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What’s Left for UK?

It is getting harder and harder to keep up with developments in the referendum campaign as the No side shows increasing signs of imploding. They clearly have lots of problems, and with all the dissension and infighting it is a wonder they have any time left for serious campaigning. But maybe serious campaigning is just beyond the assorted Unionists and Britnats that make up the No side. Robing McAlpine has a typically robust dismantling of the faults at the heart of Better Together, though he is none too impressed by the Yes campaign. A must read article which appeared on Bella Caledonia and you can find it here.

One by one the key scare stories of the No side keep falling down as the truth sooner or later emerges. Even shipbuilding in an independent Scotland it seems is now safe. The main story over the weekend though was the unnamed senior government minster who openly admitted that, “of course” there would be a currency union if Scotland votes Yes. Many people have examined the implications of this admission. The key one perhaps is that the credibility of the UK government and their acolytes in the No side has been pretty much destroyed. However I want to focus on just one part of the minister’s admission, which was the link between a currency union and rUK getting to keep Trident in Scotland.

Now I do not believe for a moment that any Scottish negotiating team would agree to Trident remaining in Scotland a day beyond what will be needed to secure its safe removal. What is much more interesting is what this link says about why the British establishment is so opposed to Scottish independence. It all comes down to loss of prestige and status in the world. The economic contribution that Scotland makes to the UK treasury and the UK’s trade balance should not be underestimated, but it would not in the fullness of time make that great a difference to total GDP or GDP per capita.  rUK would remain a very wealthy country with a large economy.

What it would not remain is the same size. Without Scotland rUK becomes quite a small sized state in world terms. Most important and of greatest relevance is that it would look rather small. Though Scotland represents less than 10% of UK population, Scotland accounts for around 32% of UK landmass. If you factor in the territorial waters then it seems that Scotland would be more or less the same size as rUK.  This means that rUK would rank below both Belarus and Kazakhstan in terms of landmass. If Wales and Northern Ireland were to leave rUK it would be even worse, as little England would be smaller than Greece. Just exactly what the British establishment most fears for their “Great” Britain.

Becoming significantly smaller in size and losing the name Great Britain would be bad enough. But to lose the Trident nuclear weapon system as well would strike a fatal blow to all that the top brass in London hold most dear. Their seat at the top table in the UN Security Council. Their continued membership of this elite club will be severely tested if Scotland votes for independence. If rUK cannot retain Trident in some form or another, then this membership would be all but impossible to maintain.  President Obama recently tried to dismiss and belittle Russia as merely a regional power.  Without Scotland and without Trident rUK would be hard pressed to be gain even this accolade – a regional power.

The establishment in London, all of them, from politicians, the military, finance, business, to the media will fight tooth and nail to prevent this ignominious end of “Great” Britain and their entry card into the world’s elite clubs. In the eyes of this group a currency union would be a small price to pay to keep Trident.  It won’t work of course, so we can expect even more bitterness from Better Together.

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